By Luciana Chavez, Special to the Office of External Relations
When you are born an Allison, they enroll you at Merced College while filling out your birth certificate.
OK, they don’t. It might, however, save time.
Joe Allison is not one of a few family members to matriculate at Merced College. The Vice President of Administrative Services, and former Blue Devil basketball star, is one of 10.
Allison’s wife Danielle, sons DeShaun and Jaylen, daughter Jordyn, mother Michelle, sister Alecia, brother-in-law Shawn Mims and parents-in-law John and Pat Mims, are all Blue Devils.
Said DeShaun, “Maybe it’s something in the DNA.”
Joe and Danielle Allison met at Atwater High, but forged their life partnership as Blue Devils.
Danielle came to Merced College for the dental assistant program. Her 18-month commitment has turned into a 30-year, and counting, career.
Joe wasn’t ready to leave out of high school, and wanted to play basketball. He spent the spring of his senior year playing pickup ball with older Blue Devils.
“Knowing everyone made the transition so much smoother,” Joe said. “That made it so much easier to concentrate on school.”
Spot-on decision. Joe still holds Blue Devil records for most assists in a game (14) and a season (221) playing for two of the best teams in school history.
He finished his basketball career and a BA at Grand Canyon University, and then became a CPA. He cut his teeth doing business services work for Merced County before taking his first Merced College position as director of fiscal services. He is celebrating 18 years here this month.
“It has been a family [here],” Joe said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Danielle’s parents Pat and John Mims paved the way to Merced College for her family. Pat took classes there and John graduated from the College before going on to a 30-plus year career with PG&E.
Michelle did the same. She had college credits and work experience, but no degree yet when the Allisons moved to Atwater when Joe and Alecia were in high school.
She first took a job at the College as Southeast Asian Training Coordinator, before earning credits at the College, and then a degree from the University of Phoenix.
The former Merced County NAACP president has also served the College on a bond oversight committee and while performing in concerts and plays.
Joe and Danielle’s siblings also used Merced College as a springboard.
Danielle’s brother Shawn Mims, an IT expert, started his computer sciences career with a Merced College degree.
Joe’s sister Alecia Allison-Thomas, who hated school as a teenager, gave the College a brief shot before joining the workforce. She was married and raising a child seven years later when a divorce brought her home and back to school.
Alecia earned her AA in 1997, a BA from Sacramento State in 1999 and an MA there in 2000. She said she should have gone straight to law school then, but again waited, this time 17 years.
Alecia just completed law school in October. Delay, scmelay. She knew she could do it, just like she had in Merced.
“It’s a really loving community at Merced College,” Alecia said. “There was a lot of love and support.”
As for Joe and Danielle’s children, it wasn’t a given DeShaun would go to Merced College after graduating high school in 2015. He had a few false starts.
“My family reassured me that they had no problem with me going there,” said DeShaun, who earned a transfer degree in May and now studies sociology at Stanislaus State. “I never stopped going to classes. It just took me longer to hit my stride.”
Middle son Jaylen wasn’t ready to start adult life at age 18 either.
“My brother was [at the College] and I was like, ‘He’s still at home. He’s still treated as an adult,’” Jaylen said. “I can do the same. It made financial and emotional sense for me.”
Jaylen is acing his second year studying biology and chemistry at Merced College. He wants to transfer to UC Davis to eventually study at the renowned veterinary school.
Jordyn, an aspiring actress and Atwater High junior, said she picked up her basketball skills at College for Kids camps at Merced College. She wants to get a jump on college by learning sign language there this spring.
Asked if she would go to Merced College full time, Jordyn said diplomatically, “I don’t know yet.”
Whether or not she lands there, she’ll always love it, remembering days playing in her dad’s office.
Every Allison has a different reason why Merced College is a chapter in the family storybook.
“It’s because family is here and it’s not scary,” Jordyn said.
Danielle added, “The classes, the social aspects, the theater, College for Kids, basketball games—it provides so much.”
DeShaun thinks they gravitate there because they’ve all made great friends there.
Michelle says, “We don’t raise children to stay home. We raise them to be able to leave. A community college prepares [them for that].”
It makes financial sense, says Jaylen, adding, “My parents were living at home with their parents when they went to Merced College.”
Joe says they know they’ll do well because everyone else has.
“We feed off of that,” he said. “Whether it was my mom teaching and attending, or me through basketball and work, or the staff, even the grounds, it does feel like home.”